Guest Post on the WITNESS blog

Apologies for the lack of updates– the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity!

I recently wrote a guest post for the WITNESS blog entitled, “Building a Network for Human Rights Archives and Archivists”:

“In recent years, archival institutions and organizations have become increasingly concerned with issues regarding human rights records and archival collections. Questions of access, privacy, politics, trust, and ensuring the safety of those documenting abuses and potentially controversial records all impact archivists working with human rights collections. Furthermore, the difficult subject matter contained in records of human rights abuses may require additional support for processing archivists who must confront images and accounts of atrocities daily.”


The WITNESS Hub blog posted an EXCELLENT blog post earlier this week with a spotlight on human rights archives:

From the post:

“October 27th marks World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, started in 2005 by UNESCO in order to help “build global awareness of the various issues at stake in preserving audiovisual heritage.” Not so long ago, this lack of awareness almost resulted in the loss of the last remaining video documentation of Neil Armstrong’s historic moon landing. Deterioration and loss due to time, handling, improper storage, and poor documentation continue to threaten much of the world’s moving image heritage.

Among these irreplaceable materials are collections devoted to human rights. The recently released “Right to Truth” document from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights asserts that “the recognition that archives and archivists play a central role in undergirding human rights has grown over the last decade.” Human rights archives are increasingly playing a pivotal role in advocacy, restorative justice, historical memory, and struggles against impunity. And audiovisual documentation – which must be preserved – has become a key component of human rights campaigns.

Below you will find resources, tools, videos, and information on both human rights on archives and archiving. We hope it will be a resource for archivists, activists, or anyone seeking to learn more about these topics.”



Human Rights in the USA Film Series: “The Least of These”

Please join the Human Rights Institute and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center for the October film for the 2009-2010 Human Rights Film Series: Human Rights in the USA.

 Film:  The Least of These (2009)
Directed by Clark and Jesse Lyda

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
4:00 pm, Konover Auditorium
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

The Least of These offers a look at one of the most controversial aspects of American immigration policy:  family detention.  

The detention of immigrant children inside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former medium-security prison in Texas now operated by a private corporation leads to controversy when three activist attorneys discover troubling conditions at the facility, as families await asylum hearings or deportation proceedings.  This compelling documentary film explores the role – and limits – of community activism, and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us.

The film series is being held in conjunction with the Human Rights in the USA Conference, October 22-24, 2009.  The full film series schedule and downloadable poster is available on the Dodd Research Center’s website.

New Resource: The World Digital Library

The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

The principal objectives of the WDL are to:

    * Promote international and intercultural understanding;

    * Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet;

    * Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences;

    * Build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.

The WDL makes it possible to discover, study, and enjoy cultural treasures from around the world on one site, in a variety of ways. These cultural treasures include, but are not limited to, manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.

Items on the WDL may easily be browsed by place, time, topic, type of item, and contributing institution, or can be located by an open-ended search, in several languages. Special features include interactive geographic clusters, a timeline, advanced image-viewing and interpretive capabilities. Item-level descriptions and interviews with curators about featured items provide additional information.

Navigation tools and content descriptions are provided in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Many more languages are represented in the actual books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other primary materials, which are provided in their original languages.

The WDL was developed by a team at the U.S. Library of Congress, with contributions by partner institutions in many countries; the support of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the financial support of a number of companies and private foundations.

New Website: “Our World, Your Move” from Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are launching a joint online initiative on 8 April to raise awareness of the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges and to show what individuals are doing to make a meaningful difference.

The new web portal,  puts the spotlight on the human cost of wars, climate change, displacement, disease, food insecurity and forgotten crises. It also invites members of the public to post videos and photos, and write about what they are doing to help others. The online gateway features images from award-winning photographers such as James Nachtwey and Ron Haviv, personal accounts from conflict and disaster survivors, and a wealth of ideas for anyone looking for ways to be involved. The site’s launch in 2009 coincides with the 150th anniversary of the battle of Solferino, which led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. “The idea of the Red Cross was born 150 years ago when one individual, Henry Dunant, decided to take action to help thousands of soldiers, who were wounded near Solferino in northern Italy. His legacy lives on today in the selfless acts of all those around the world who offer hope in a moment of need or despair,” said Yves Daccord, the ICRC’s director of communications. “Each day, there are countless stories of unsung courage and achievement just waiting to be told. We want the web portal to be a place where someone who is making a difference in one corner of the world can inspire someone on the opposite side of the globe.”

The web portal exists in English, French, Spanish and Arabic and serves as an online gateway for individuals looking to make a difference. For the first time, the IFRC and ICRC have placed special emphasis on engaging social media sites in an effort to connect with a broader global audience. “We’ve made a real effort to capitalize on the tremendous scope of social networking and new media sites in order to reach beyond our typical support base and build a partnership with the public,” said Pierre Kremer, the head of communications for the IFRC. “We hope to generate a lot of excitement around what we do and why it matters, and encourage people to join us in taking action in their communities, and to make a difference in the lives of people around them.” As part of the online initiative, a new 60-second 3D video will launch on YouTube on 8 April. An innovative technique that renders still photographs into animation was used to make the video.

Both the online clip and the site offer a sneak preview of what the public can expect when the “Our world. Your move.” campaign officially launches on 8 May, which is World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.

Transcript Available from Sackler Lecture

The transcript for the 16th Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture, “‘The Last, Best Hope of Earth?’ American Democracy and the Right to Vote in Historical Perspective,” presented on March 31, 2009 by Dr. Adam Fairclough, Professor of American History and Culture, Leiden University, is now available on the Dodd Research Center’s website.

A direct link to the PDF of the transcript is available here.

New Online Publication: “Human Rights Tribunals in Latin America: The Fujimori Trial in Comparative Perspective”

The Center for Global Studies at George Mason University, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the Lima-based Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) announce a new online publication, “Human Rights Tribunals in Latin America:  The Fujimori Trial in Comparative Perspective.”



The report provides an overview of a symposium of the same name held in Washington, DC, on October 2, 2008.


Fifteen distinguished speakers from Latin America and the United States evaluated the efforts of governments, human rights organizations and civil society groups more broadly, as well as international actors, to combat impunity and to strengthen the rule of law and democracy.  The rapporteur’s report highlights the symposium’s central themes and is an important resource for understanding the role of human rights tribunals in promoting truth, justice and reconciliation in Latin America.  The report is also available in Spanish.

The trial of former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, is nearing conclusion. Fujimori, who ruled Peru between 1990 and 2000, is being prosecuted for human rights violations, and faces further charges for corruption and abuse of authority.  The trial began on December 10, 2007, shortly after Fujimori was extradited to Peru from Chile. 

Fujimori had evaded justice since 2000, when he fled Peru after a series of corruption scandals came to light.


Prosecutors and the lawyers representing survivors and family members of victims made their closing remarks in February.  Fujimori’s defense attorney is now concluding his arguments, after which Fujimori will have the opportunity to address the court himself.  The Supreme Court judges hearing the case are then expected to reconvene in late March or early April to announce their verdict.

Several participants in the October 2 symposium have also produced working papers, which analyze in greater depth different aspects of the Fujimori trial, as well as the other human rights trials underway in Latin America.  We invite you to access the working papers available at the CGS website: wphjd.html.

Consciousness and Responsibility in the Age of Genocide Workshop


A Workshop with Mr. Keith Harmon Snow


Thursday, March 19, 2009

12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

Castleman Room 212

How does the mass media operate? How does one interpret information and determine if, when and how the news is slanted? How do you “read” information that passes your way? What is the value of information and when is information being used against us? Should one be reading the mass media at all?


Join Keith Harmon Snow for a workshop exploring the western mass media system. Using specific case studies based in his human rights work and media analyses, Keith will offer insights into the media, including structural deceptions, political agendas, racial biases, stereotypes and corporate seductions. The workshop will address ethical and moral issues and will challenge participants to evaluate truth, justice, equality and what it means to pursue right livelihood in the present era.


Keith Harmon Snow is the 2009 Regent’s Lecturer in Law & Society at the University of California Santa Barbara.  Over the past decade, he has been recognized for his work in contesting official narratives on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.  He has also worked as a genocide investigator for the United Nations. 


Please visit for more information, or call 486.0647.

African Activist Archive Project at Michigan State

African Activist Archive Project at Michigan State University


The African Studies Center with MATRIX digital humanities center at Michigan State University’s announce the launch of the new African Activist Archive Project (


This project is preserving records and memories of activism in the United States that supported the struggles of African peoples against colonialism, apartheid, and social injustice from the 1950s through the 1990s. This is one of the most significant modern American movements having defeated the foreign policy of a sitting President (Ronald Reagan), whose veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was overturned by Congress, signaling the end of U.S. government support for the apartheid government. And it was based in more than 100 local community, university, religious, NGO, and labor organizations as well as city, county, and state governments.


The project is assembling excellent materials for teaching about community mobilizations, including:



  • an online archive of historical materials – pamphlets, newsletters, leaflets, buttons, posters, T-shirts, photographs, and audio and videorecordings
  • personal remembrances and interviews with activists
  • a directory to the many archives of organizations and individuals deposited in libraries and historical societies that are available for further research


The earliest documents on the website are about the 1962 American Negro Leadership Conference on Africa which included Martin Luther King, Jr. and other key civil rights leaders of that time. The website also includes documents of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement, Winnie Mandela Solidarity Coalition, and the Pan-African Liberation Committee at Harvard University. Among the audio materials is Harry Belafonte welcoming African National Congress President Oliver Tambo to a 1987 reception in New York.


The website now contains 1350 items of all types of media, including


  • more than 800 documents
  • 19 streaming videos and 11 streaming audio files
  • a new T-shirt collection – with up to four images of each (with more T-shirts coming in the months ahead)
  • galleries of posters, photos, and buttons


There is representation from many organizations from across the country – 74 US organizations, most of them local groups, in 21 states and the District of Columbia. We have newsletters from 18 organizations, brief descriptions of more than 100 US organizations, and information about many physical archives.


There are many ways to navigate around the site. You can start from Galleries (including Remembrances or types of media, e.g. photos, documents, video) or begin on the Browse page with the organization name, a U.S. state, or the African country that is the focus of organizing. The Advanced Search page allows you to search across all types of media. Also, from each page displaying an item (e.g. photo, document, video), you can link to other items of the same organization or of the same African country of focus.

Doctors Without Borders Top 10 Humanitarian Crises of 2008

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres has released its annual report of Top 10 Humanitarian Crises of 2008.  The full report is available online at MSF’s website.

The Top 10 of 2008 are:

1.  Somalia
2. Myanmar
3.  Zimbabwe
4.  Democratic Republic of Congo
5.  Childhood Malnutrition
6.  Ethiopia
7.  Pakistan
8.  Sudan
9.  Iraq
10.  HIV/TB

50 Human Rights Blogs Worth Checking Out

Laura Milligan of e-Justice has created a list of The Top 50 Human Rights Blogs, broken down into categories such as Civil Liberties, Capital Punishment, Children’s Rights, International Outreach, General, Religion, Whistleblowers, and Politics.

A few Human Rights Blogs included in the list:

ACLU Blog of Rights: The American Civil Liberties Union posts about legislation, issues and campaigns that protect, influence and threaten civil liberties and freedom.

Labor is not a Commodity: This international labor rights blog covers child labor, underpaid workers and more.

Human Rights Now: The Amnesty International USA blog reports on global and regional conflicts, torture, progressive legislation and a lot more.

AlterNet: AlterNet’s Rights and Liberties blog covers everything from current political events to everyday human rights violations in lesser known areas.

Stop Genocide: Stop Genocide is a well-organized resource that shares news stories, tips for teaching about genocide, commentary and predictions about the state of human rights.

PhD Studies in Human Rights: This blog is designed for PhD students but is a great resource for anyone wanting to find news and reference material related to human rights issues.